Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Move along home

We all want to be somewhere we can’t. A new job, a holiday, your bed. For me it’s Hong Kong.

Hong Kong tram
For those of you just joining us, I lived there for 11 years. Then, due to my gradually increasing dissatisfaction with the political struggles, work visa problems, and money, I returned to England. I adjusted all over again - the cold weather, the stodgy food, the moaning people (fuck me, but the people), the expensive money, the slower pace, the whole Brexit palava. For the first few months I had shoulder and neck problems; I returned in October and it was cold, and try as I might I couldn’t stop myself from unconsciously hunching against the lack of constant bone-warming humidity. I also did the thing where you convert all prices into something that makes sense in your head; a £10 cinema ticket was $110 to me so I could figure if that was good or not. As time went by I unlearnt to do these things and I had pretty much been assimilated to Blighty again.

However - movies; music; city life… All these things were missing and I were missed. I kept up with Eason Chan’s new albums, with Donnie Yen’s new films, with news of Andy Lau Tak-Wah and his horse-riding accident. I discovered the TVB box that lets you watch HK TV (kind of like a Sky box for overseas subscribers), the band ToNick and their awesome sound, the growing political unrest and the HKFP’s efforts to keep the news open to all.

The one thing I couldn’t have was the city life back. Where I live now it’s basically a sleepy hollow, made up people who obsess about the tiny things because they’ve never seen bigger ones. They’re small town people, and while that’s ok and fine for them, I find it very limiting. It’s talking to people who not only fail to realise that not everyone’s right handed, but have literally never heard of countries whose newspapers and popular press write/print right to left, top to bottom, because that’s the formal way to write. It’s chatting with these people who think that going vegan is bad for you, and when I say that Buddhists have been doing it for thousands of years and most of them seemed ok, they’re surprised. It’s recounting the story of the night you and your mate went out and got hammered at the bar, closed it at 4am by dancing on the table, setting fire to the noodles in 7-11 (I am still absolutely sure there was no mention of water in any of those instructions) on the munchies detour home, strolling back to the flat with a couple of coppers who found us fascinating - and they think this is something you’ve made up. No mate, you say patiently, that was par for the course pretty much one random Friday night a month.

So I want to be somewhere I cannot be - Hong Kong of 2013. It’s gone, and nothing will bring it back. My choice now is stay where I am or find a new city, one where I can work by simply flashing a passport. Somewhere fun, and vibrant, and alive - and preferably cheaper to live where I am now.

When it’s all concrete I’ll let you in on it. For now though, I’m checking Zoopla and RightMove, and I’m making lists and checking ‘em twice. Moving is tricky to be sure, but it’s a damn sight better than staying out here in Bumblefuck Nowhereville, waiting for something vaguely exciting to happen.


Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Mixed Reviews

Wow. I look away for 5 minutes and I’ve missed out a tonne of film reviews. So here we go:

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (6th June 2018)

Verdict: 8.5/10 - much better than the first Jurassic World and some marvellous moments - loved the little dude goat-butting bad people like there was no tomorrow.

Ocean’s 8 (19th June 2018)

Verdict: 8/10 - not so many twists as George Clooney’s Ocean’s 11, but definitely a lot of fun. Although the basic premise is the same (much like all heist movies), it’s the ensemble that sells this one and the quiet, reflective moments Sandra Bullock’s character has with her (absent) brother Danny.

The Incredibles 2 (20th June 2018)

Verdict: 8.5/10 - this isn’t a kids movie with grown-up jokes thrown in to keep the parents amused, this is a grown-up movie with kids jokes in to keep the kids amused. I’m not kidding - gender equality, self-respect and managing your life - it’s all here. And it’s hilarious.

Searching (24th July 2018)

Verdict: 8/10 - don’t watch the trailers as they’ll give things away, but basically this is all told through social media. A great idea, a very modern take on a Hitchcock-type plot, this may not have the biggest shock of an ending but it’s certainly very timely. And John Cho remains excellent.

Hotel Artemis (31st July 2018)

Verdict: 8/10 - not what people think it is. With some excellent turns by Jodie Foster and Dave Bautista, this is a cautionary tale, but who it’s aimed at is up to you. A nice ending, too.

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2nd August 2018)

Verdict: 9.5/10 - hilarious, twisty, fun, and it brings back Luis and co - what more could you ask for? Stay for the mid and after credits scenes, though - that last one is VERY IMPORTANT. Oh, and Hannah John-Kamen (Dutch from Killjoys) is awesome.

The Meg (15th August 2018)

Verdict: 9.5/10 - and that’s as high as I go. This was cheesy, badly-written dodgy Syfy Original Movie type fare - and it was epic. Poor dialogue, plot holes and reasonably crappy motivation, paired with an amazing idea and some pretty thought-out pseudoscience, this had us laughing and clapping the whole way through. Your mileage may vary, but we loved it.

That’s it, that’s your lot. I have a new PS4 VR with Doom VFR installed and it’s calling my name.


Sunday, 8 July 2018

On Giving Up

So many things I’ve haven’t bothered with. So many things I can’t be arsed with. I’ve just finished writing a fanfic and that elation of completing the first draft has given way, as it always does, to being back on this planet and I’m just so disappointed.

Couple this with my reminder that went off a few days ago; it tells me to check my most recent wave of agents off the list of people who don’t want my novel because (a) they’ve already emailed me back and have politely declined, or more likely (b) they haven’t got back to me at all and their recommended waiting period is up.

Too bad, so sad, move on.

Except I don’t think I will. Not this time.

A long time ago on a continent far, far away, I wrote a space opera consisting of 7 novels. This, as you can imagine, took many years and many more in proof-reading, honing, polishing, etc. I then sent the first one out very carefully to agents - for 5 years.

When I couldn’t find an agent to take it I instead took one agent’s advice: write a one-off, a stand-alone, a bit of fun to get you published. When you have a name, then you can sneak in your sci-fi saga. It worked for Jim Butcher, after all, as he really wanted his fantasy books published, but when he wrote a short about a bloke called Harry Dresden he got both feet successfully in the door.

So I did. I wrote a book. It took me just over a year, and then another one in rewrites, changes, polishing - the usual. And that book is the one I’ve been trying to get published since 2012.

This is where a lot of soul searching comes in.

This is where I realise I’ve been the only one who hadn’t seen something up until now.

This is where I decide it’s not a day to get out of bed.

This is where I give up; I’m done.

You see, everyone telling you one thing for so long, and you soldiering on because you’re bloody-minded with your eyes on the prize, and you believe you can make it happen, and it will happen if you just keep trying - you can only do it for so long. And then one day you stop and wonder why.

Why do I bother? Agents who rely on selling good books to publishers pass on my novels. People in the industry who know what sells and what doesn’t pass on my novels. And I understand that agents and their readers are humans, and all it takes is a bad trip into work on public transport, or an accident with a pet over the weekend, or anything at all that stops a human from feeling the sunshine, and - bam - grumpy bastard is not in the mood to read, let alone like, anything they see at the office that day. And I don’t blame them for it - I really can’t.

But for every agent that’s had a bad day, there must have been one who didn’t. There must have been one who was in a really good mood and picked up my sample chapters when they got in and thought, “Hey ho, what’s this? Let’s give it a try.”

These, I believe, are the agents who got back to me and declined. All the ones who never got back to me? Well if you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything at all, right?

So it’s come to this: me realising I’m just not that good, and not worth publishing. I should stick to fanfic, where I get poor traffic but at least people press a ‘kudos’ or ‘like’ button from time to time. Sometimes I even get reviews that tell me I made someone smile today, and that’s when I don’t feel completely useless.

And so it goes.
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